First Turns: The Cyborg

Most wars are won or lost long before the fighting starts. This series concentrates only on those critical few turns leading up to the Ship Limit as a key to achieving long-term goals necessary for victory.

Overview:

The Cyborg field not one but two of the strongest warships in the Echo Cluster. The Annihilation is the most massive and powerful battleship, and the Biocide is a carrier nearly as huge as the Empire’s Gorbie — and with a larger cargo hold to boot. The Firecloud permits instantaneous travel across any distance, and there’s also a passable hyperspace probe that, when coupled with the Cyborg’s ability to assimilate natives, grants them the ability to expand rapidly across any cluster.

Individual Cyborg warships win most one-on-one fights, and the mobility granted by Fireclouds lets massive fleets assemble at any point. They can resupply almost at whim, which permits their advances to be relentless, forcing enemy fleets to either fall back rapidly or engage en masse against what probably will be superior numbers. On the chance an enemy force is assembled that can surpass the Cyborg’s power it is a simple matter for the outnumbered fleet to avoid battle, retreat, and attack elsewhere.

One of the few disadvantages of the Cyborg fleet is their lack of variety in light and midsized warships, with the ubiquitous Firecloud being forced to serve most purposes. However, the advantage in mobility conferred by owning multiple Fireclouds makes it dangerous to risk them as scouts or minor warships. The Cyborg have no combat-effective light carrier, and their only light torpedo boat is an undergunned minelayer, the Quietus.

For Cyborg commanders to be effective late in the war, they must ramp up quickly during the opening turns. Before the Ship Limit hits, they should have constructed at least two alchemy ships, several freighters, a truly vast number of Fireclouds scattered about the cluster, and as many Biocides as practicable. It is possible for a sufficiently aggressive Cyborg to have a fighting chance even if the Ship Limit is reached before Turn 30, but it’s difficult.

Rules Of Expansion:

Unlike with other races, the Cyborg have a very hard time farming natives for income, and instead rely on colonist taxes and massive numbers of factories on virtually every planet. Every cluster should have at least one Firecloud handy to act as a destination for economic convoys that serve local development. Over time, these will be replaced by ships with stronger engines, while the weakest will often serve as shuttles that only ever move by Chunneling from point to point.

Because the Cyborg assimilate natives so rapidly, it is often difficult for them to take advantage of the tech boosts normally offered by Humanoids, Ghipsoldals, Amphibians, and Siliconoids. In order to delay native annihilation, it is occasionally necessary to commit freighters which otherwise might be exploring to instead regularly remove newly-formed colonists while preparing for starbase assembly. With these operations, prioritization is key.

Real distance is often meaningless to Cyborg logistics. Instead, convoys of low-engined freighters and Merlins can travel from one Firecloud to the next, collecting excess minerals and colonists from one point and delivering them wherever needed, even if that happens to be halfway across the cluster. Unfortunately, the Firecloud network can easily be infiltrated by any cloaking race, which with only a pair of warships can strand an entire convoy. Extreme care should be taken to defend against this.

Because high-tech engines are unnecessary for top-end component construction, it is possible to send light ships with beam weapons or even torpedo tubes for recycling elsewhere, likely at Humanoid bases. The large number required for an Annihilation makes torpedo tube shipment in this fashion somewhat impracticable, however.

(Remember that in Classic, one can bank a maximum of 20 PBP before the Limit.)

One final note: It can be tempting to send out an early force of Biocides and Annihilations well before the Ship Limit, particularly as an ill-prepared enemy might well find it difficult to resist such an attacking force. However, it must be remembered that ammunition and fighters are obscenely expensive, and cost funds and materials perhaps better employed in ship construction. Even so, early conquest can be an excellent method of building momentum as well as delaying the Ship Limit.

Gambits:

  1. Economic: Your best bet for early success is rapid but concealed expansion. Therefore, using your initial freighter as a scout, your next one or two builds should be Large Deep Space Freighters. If your first scout wasn’t your guaranteed ‘good’ natives, the first LDSF should be sent out to one of the others; otherwise, it can drop a large number of colonists where they can do the most good: Assimilating natives and earning you taxes.

    LDSFs should be sent out with at least 100 Supplies and 300 MC, enough to instantly construct 100 Factories on the target planet. 200/600 is often more to the point (when not playing Classic); the freighter can circle back by way of the first world colonized by the Medium and drop 100 instant factories there before heading home. Then, the first to return can go back out with an instant Starbase-In-A-Box kit so as to start generating hyperspace probes and PBP at the earliest possible convenience.
  2. Instant Starbase: The obvious, direct method of exploration is to fly a Firecloud across empty space to the next cluster, use it to receive other ships and Colonists, and use those in turn to develop the new area. However, when exploring through Hyperspace, or wanting to keep your presence concealed until you have developed significant strength, this might not be the best option. Instead, we use the probes themselves.

    Of course, the B200 is somewhat restricted in that its cargohold can only carry 15, while a starbase requires 862 minerals. Then too, remember you also want to construct a Firecloud there; that raises the requirement to just over 1000. Many planets will not have enough raw materials available, even with the massive mining potential of a vast population.

    However, each B200 can be Land And Disassembled for 75% of the minerals used in its construction — including engines and beam weapons. Duranium, Molybdenum, and a small amount of Tritanium can be secretly (if not cheaply) transported in this manner, and it’s a rare cluster that doesn’t have even a single planet with large deposits of Tritanium. (It is, after all, the most common mineral.)

    Note that this tactic is most useful well before the Ship Limit, when replacement hulls can be freely constructed at any base and ship slots won’t be thus sacrificed unnecessarily.
  3. Gunboat Diplomacy: One of the core truths of Planets is that the Cyborg often has a massive coalition formed against them early on. It is quite difficult to expand rapidly without appearing to be a major threat. Fortunately, this can be used to your advantage.

    Using your B200s, it is a fairly simple matter to acquaint yourself early on with the identity of your neighbors, and indeed to place a fairly nasty stumbling block in the path of their exploration. The direct advantage of doing so is enough to warrant the action; however, it can also be used as a way to strongly encourage your neighbor to work alongside you rather than against.

Construction:

Remember the initial goals: two or more alchemy ships, several freighters (engines optional), a vast number of Fireclouds including one in each cluster, and as many Biocides as practicable. The first Merlin is almost a simple matter if one hoards Duranium and hauls it back on empty freighters, but keeping your colonists from absorbing all the Humanoids or Ghipsoldals on a world before you can build a starbase will often be difficult.

Dominating the ship queue is of vital importance. In Classic, one can spam SDSFs at secondary starbases, but either there or in Standard, setting up a Humanoid base to produce Biocides and alchemy ships is absolutely essential. Multiple Bios per turn is your objective; given the utility of the Firecloud as rapid transit, keeping multiple construction hubs supplied is entirely achievable.

Most Fireclouds will have only low-grade engines and weapons when built at secondary bases, so it’s quite useful to also construct top-end models when practicable.

Conclusion:

The Cyborg are one of the most difficult races to manage, but they can win most wars hands down by concentrating superior firepower at will.


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